No bull: Furry one can't bear to see volatile tech market take big plunge

Once upon a time, fellow federal employees would see the Rat
ensconced in his cubicle reading computer trade rags and ask him general computer
questions such as, “What computer should I buy?” or “What’s the best
modem?”


In the last couple of years, however, a new breed of question has emerged to tax the
cyberrodent’s wisdom: “Which tech stock should I buy?” It’s a
sure sign that blatant capitalism has invaded the federal workplace.


Suddenly it seems that many feds have maxed out their withholding for the Thrift
Savings Plan’s Common Stock Index Fund.


The Rat has always been suspicious of stock-based savings plans. His idea of savings is
a wad of small-denomination, nonsequential bills sewn into his mattress and a collection
of shiny objects in the back of his closet.


Events have proved him right. The recent stock market jitters have even made the furry
one’s networks cranky.


The Rat doesn’t need to turn on a radio or check a Web news feed anymore to know
when the indexes have taken a hit. All he has to do is watch the network monitor and check
traffic on TCP/IP port 80.


If there’s a big spike in Hypertext Transfer Protocol traffic, the cyberrodent
knows it’s time either to stick his head out of his lead-lined command cubicle or to
head for the nearest fallout shelter.


The key indicator for which direction to take comes from the counter that the wily one
placed on the payroll office’s intranet server. It counts requests for TSP-1
forms—the ones for making changes to retirement plans.


The other day, the whiskered one’s routers started smoking from all the frantic
page views outbound from the building’s LAN. The Rat took a quick look at his network
dashboard and instantly knew what was happening—the stock market was headed into the
toilet.


The Rat briefly considered shutting off all Web access to give his servers a break, but
he abandoned that thought as he remembered the recipes for nutria he had seen pinned up on
an office bulletin board.


After a few more days of market volatility, though, the Rat decided that someone must
render aid. He sent his minions forth with a few bottles of Dramamine to relieve the
motion sickness so often associated with rising and falling hopes.


So much for the gnu economy that the Rat has been reading about in glitzy cyberbusiness
magazines.


Lately, more charter subscription offers than trouble tickets have been crossing the
whiskered one’s desk.


The new capitalist rags all have gnu economy names such as The Industry Standard and
Business 2.0. Many of them tout the so-called coming long boom that a sci-fi writer must
have dreamed up while watching for Timothy Leary’s urn to come around its orbit
again.


It makes the Rat want to slap somebody with a red herring.


Of course, the market’s dead-cow bounces have brought about one positive effect.
The cyberrodent hasn’t heard any more silly talk about investing the Social Security
trust fund in the stock market.


“Like I need any more risk taken with my retirement money than giving it to
Congress to play with,” sighs the Rat. 


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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